DOMESTIC DRONE INFORMATION RELEASED
Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a list of public and private organizations authorized to fly drones in the United States. The list includes government agencies, local law enforcement agencies, private companies and universities.
This list was made public after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) brought a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FAA in January. The EFF expressed concern that the surveillance capabilities of drones could infringe on the privacy of American citizens.
In a Thursday, April 19 report on their web site, the EFF reported that they were waiting for additional information to be released by the FAA. They hope to learn what model drones are to be flown, how many drones each organization will be authorized to fly, and what justification the FAA uses in rejecting applications for authorization.
Congress has taken note of the privacy concerns being raised by organizations such as the EFF. According to a Sunday, April 22 Telegraph article, some congressmen recently “wrote to the FAA demanding that it take into account privacy concerns before approving deployments.”
However, in February, Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which NPR states will expedite the authorization process. The result of pressure from organizations wanting to fly drones, the act could result in increased commercial drone use.
DEATH PENALTY VERDICT REVISED
Convicted murderer Marcus Robinson is no longer on death row, CNN reported Saturday, April 21. Sentenced in 1994 for the murder of 17-year-old Erik Tornblom, Robison will now serve life without the possibility of parole.
The Cumberland County Court’s decision to downgrade Robinson’s sentence came as a result of North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act. Passed in 2009, the act allows appeals to be made on the basis of statistically probable racial bias during the time of the original trial. If sufficient evidence of bias is presented, the death penalty can be nixed. Robinson’s case is based on a Michigan State University study, which showed Robinson, who is black, could have been the victim of bias. The study found that North Carolina prosecutors struck black jurors from the list of potential jurors almost twice as often as white jurors during the time period when Robinson’s trial took place.
This case marks the first ruling under the Racial Justice Act, setting the precedent for the 156 other death row inmates in North Carolina with pending appeals under the law.
SCIENTISTS QUESTION DOLPHIN DEATHS
Since February, nearly 900 dead dolphins have washed ashore in Peru. While it is true that mass stranding is common in many areas, the magnitude and cause of these fatalities has gained attention from environmentalists and scientists.
In Peru, speculation and investigation have raised several potential causes of death. Viral infection is a possibility that biologists are continuing to investigate. According to a Fox News article, some environmentalist organizations — such as Peruvian group Orca — speculate that seismic exploration conducted by oil companies could be at fault.
In a Sunday, April 22 CNN article, Marine Biologist Sue Rocca stated that this many dolphin deaths could have been caused by a single traumatic event, such as acoustic trauma from human sonar, but emphasized the need for additional investigation.
The Peruvian government has so far ruled out food shortage, biotoxins and heavy metals as causes for the deaths.